New horizons or reignited rivalries for the UFC’s Lightweight Division?

With a huge fight on the cards this weekend Henry Fern discusses it's implications on the UFC

Henry Fern
24th October 2020
Image: The Courier
The UFC’s most anticipated fight of the year just around the corner, UFC 254 on October 24th, will set the stage for Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje to unify the division’s Lightweight Champion.

Pay-per-view buys are expected to smash the previous fight [UFC 253] in which Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya exhibited a striking clinic against no.1 contender Paolo Costa. In doing so, he put all weight divisions on notice in showcasing his championship pedigree. Nurmagomedov will look to emulate Adesanya’s 2nd round via a technical knock-out (TKO) by openly stating he will “tire Gaethje out”. He looks to do this by wrestling with Gaethje on the ground and then using his famously unrelenting ‘ground and pound’ to finish the interim champion like so many before him.

If Nurmagomedov can get past Gaethje, achieving a 29-0-0 record, he has stated that he will look to finish his career by attempting to set up potential super fights with the likes of previous Middleweight and Welterweight Champion and Hall of Famer, Georges-St-Pierre. The UFC President (Dana White) has also confirmed the fight as a possibility, should Khabib win his next fight.

Looking outside of Nurmagomedov v Gaethje, one ever-present question remains: will former UFC double division Conor McGregor fight again in the new year? Despite his 3rd “retirement”, McGregor looks set to fight his previous Featherweight rival Dustin Poirier. Dana White has confirmed that the contracts have been sent to both parties- the final elements such as location and possible dates are still undecided. However, after McGregor’s most recent Twitter thread, his tweets would suggest that the AT&T stadium in Dallas, Texas will be the stage for the colossal rematch on January 23rd.

However, nothing can be truly confirmed until pen meets paper. With McGregor’s seemingly volatile off-screen personality, which most recently caused him to miss out on his involvement with Princess Charlene of Monaco's Calvi-Monaco Water Bike Challenge, this fight is no guarantee. This fact is exacerbated by McGregor’s recent clashes with the UFC President surrounding potential match ups and feeling pushed out by other more willing fighters. One thing is for certain: if McGregor prevails over Poirier for the second time, there will be little doubt that all roads lead back to the winner of Nurmagomedov v Gaethje.

Dana White recently announced that McGregor dashed all chances to take part as a coach for the second time and revive ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ in which he would have faced off against Khabib in the aftermath. The fight against Poirier may re-affirm his position as the UFC’s main star and rekindle his relationship with the UFC President. In doing this McGregor may once more be able to fit into White’s plans to rematch the Irishman and Nurmagomedov if they both win their respective fights. Despite Nurmagomedov claiming he would not fight the Irishman for any amount of money, White has never been afraid to match fighters based on what he feels makes sense and what the fans demand. White has been the driving force behind the UFC during the good times and the bad. He has consistently maintained and arguably proven that the business will continue moving forward even with the global Coronavirus pandemic.

Dana White's mindset will no doubt pit Nurmagomedov against one of the UFC’s star-studded roster, irrespective of his alternate desires. Whether this would put the Dagestani wrestler against the Irish superstar in 2021 is the question we all want answered. Until then, with or without Khabib and Conor’s bitter rivalry, the UFC will continue to deliver several unmissable match ups. This will undoubtedly give the fans much needed entertainment during the most unprecedented times in many of our lives.

Featured Image: Twitter @btsportufc
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